"A government big enough to give you everything you want is strong enough to take away everything you have."

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

My Thoughts on the Recent Payroll Tax Scuffle

Here are my thoughts on the recent payroll tax cut scuffle. The dirty little secret about the so-called "standoff" over the payroll tax cut is that the Republicans in the House were clearly right about wanting to extend the payroll tax cut for at least a year instead of the 2-month extension in the Democratic Senate bill. A 2-month payroll tax cut is laughable. Payroll software developers will barely have time to modify their programs to reflect the changes before those changes expire. It will have zero impact on the economy, since employers don't hire people for 2 months (or even for a year). Their hiring decisions are based on planning years ahead, not weeks or months. Of course, all such an "agreement" does is ensure we will have exactly the same argument again in 2 months, when once more the payroll tax cuts will expire and Congress will be scrambling to once more extend them. What kind of way is this to run a government?

OK, so maybe the House Republicans aren't exactly "right" on the policy aspect of this. Probably the right thing to do is to expose the fact that this supposed tax cut is really just a handout of about $19 per paycheck to middle-class employees -- taking money out of the Social Security trust fund while doing nothing to stimulate long-term economic growth. But what they are proposing makes much more sense than the 2-month extension passed by the Senate. And yet, everyone seems to agree that the GOP has thoroughly lost the debate and the Democrats have seized the tax-cutting mantle.

I'm not saying that the House Republicans couldn't have done better. They clearly walked into a political trap set for them by Obama and the Democrats. But there is still no way that the Democrats should come out smelling like a rose on this issue when their position is utterly ridiculous, from a substantive policy perspective. Obama's poll numbers have actually gone up and the Democrats are now perceived more favorably than Republicans on the issue of taxes. This is because the press has not covered this issue accurately. They have not helped Americans to understand the real substance of this debate and why a 2-month extension bill is not worth the paper it's written on. And the American people are also to blame because they have blindly accepted what has been spoon-fed to them by the media and by political soundbites. They have been bought off by simplistic solutions and easy handouts.

This is where I disagree a little bit with some other conservatives, who want to cast most of the blame on John Boehner and the Republicans in Congress. I don't exactly think Boehner is the brightest bulb in the box and I've been disappointed with a lot of his compromises in the past with Obama. But what exactly was he supposed to do in this situation? He tried to take a stand against the ridiculous 2-month tax cut bill passed by the Senate, but was pounded by the media. Even conservative talk radio hosts criticized his boneheaded political move of picking a fight in an election year that he could not win (from a political perspective). Then, he gave in and agreed to the Senate bill, and conservative talk radio hosts blasted him for not standing for his principles! It is easy for arm-chair pundits to attack elected Republicans for being politically stupid, or unprincipled, or insufficiently eloquent. But these Republicans are stuck in a morass called Washington, DC, which will often make you look politically stupid for standing on your principles and will reward unprincipled politicians. While very few possess the eloquence of Ronald Reagan, many congressional Republicans are capable of making a half-decent case for their positions if given the opportunity to speak and the audience to listen. But it is very hard for them to get their message across, given the 24/7 news cycle, a political culture where everything is reduced to 30-second soundbites, the hostility of much of the mainstream media, and the indifference of much of the public. They will never be able to make their case as effectively as Obama, with his gigantic bully pulpit and a highly-sympathetic press. It's always easy to blame politicians, but maybe it would be more accurate to blame the voters who repeatedly let themselves be swayed by empty rhetoric and deceitful promises. Not to mention a biased media that manipulates those voters into falling for such rhetoric.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Welcome to Our World

Tears are falling, hearts are breaking
How we need to hear from God
You've been promised, we've been waiting
Welcome Holy Child
Welcome Holy Child

Hope that You don't mind our manger
How I wish we would have known
But long-awaited Holy Stranger
Make Yourself at home
Please make Yourself at home

Bring Your peace into our violence
Bid our hungry souls be filled
Word now breaking Heaven's silence
Welcome Holy Child
Welcome Holy Child

Fragile finger sent to heal us
Tender brow prepared for thorn
Tiny heart whose blood will save us
Unto us is born
Unto us is born

So wrap our injured flesh around You
Breathe our air and walk our sod
Rob our sin and make us holy
Perfect Son of God
Perfect Son of God
Welcome to our world

~Chris Rice, "Welcome to Our World"

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

~2 Corinthians 8:9

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Today's Impromptus...

...by Jay Nordlinger of National Review Online is well worth reading. Actually, they all are, but this one is especially good. Check it out here.

One of the highlights of this Impromptus, along with the excellent comments about Ron Paul, was his account of what the Zambian foreign minister said to Amnesty International. Amnesty International, a despicable pseudo-human rights organization, called on Zambia and other African countries to arrest former President George W. Bush during his visit to that continent for "war crimes." Zambian foreign minister Chishimba Kambwili said this in reply: “On what basis does Amnesty International want us to arrest Mr. Bush? Tell them to hang, and also please ask them to create their own country and wait for Mr. Bush to visit their country so that they can arrest him to suit their wish and not here in Zambia.” Tell 'em, Chishimba!

Thursday, December 15, 2011


I thought this Washington Times article about the stark economic differences between two neighboring states, Indiana and Illinois, was fascinating. States are an interesting microcosm of the country as a whole, and comparing the economic results of different policy approaches taken by different states should be instructive for our federal politicians as they try to figure out how to get our country out of its current economic mess. Months ago, I posted a link to an online Forbes article discussing how draconian environmental regulations had damaged the economy of California and driven businesses out of the state in large numbers. Like California, Obama's home state is dominated by left-wing Democrats, and those Illinois Democratic politicians are doing their very best to follow in California's footsteps.

About a year ago, Illinois's Democratic legislature, with support from its Democratic governor, forced through huge tax increases -- 67% increases for individuals, 30% increases for businesses -- on a party line vote (in a lame-duck session, no less). Since then, the state has lost 89,000 jobs. Over the past year it has competed with neighboring Indiana for new investment and jobs 45 times, and lost 42 of those contests to Indiana. The state has also had to turn around and offer tax incentives to large corporations based in the state to keep them from moving out, which has understandably enraged the public. And ironically, the revenue gained from those massive tax increases, supposedly needed to pay down the state's debt to avoid fiscal insolvency, has simply been used to pay bloated public employee pensions and as an excuse to continue to increase spending. Of course, out-of-control spending is the reason why both the federal government and many state governments are tetering on the brink of insolvency, but Democrats (and some Republicans as well) have no interest in reining in spending. They want to raise taxes instead, which hurts businesses, kills job growth, and drives away investment, which in turn makes the budget crisis even worse, which results in added debt. It's a vicious cycle that has left Illinois's economy in shambles and threatens our entire country as well.

By contrast, Indiana is headed by a fiscally responsible Republican governor (Mitch Daniels) and a conservative legislature that has succeeded in balancing its budget, reducing spending, and keeping taxes low. This is why the state has been so effective at stealing new business and investment from Illinois that it has started an ad campaign called "Illinnoyed?" that explicitly targets Illinois businesses.

Next November, our country has to decide whether to re-elect Barack Obama, another Democratic politician obsessed with raising taxes on the rich and on the evil corporations but completely uninterested in taking any meaningful steps to reduce federal spending and reform entitlements. I hope that, unlike Illinois, we make the right choice.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

If I Were to Sum Up My Values on a Bumper Sticker...

Yesterday morning on the way to work I was behind a car with an interesting bumper sticker. In big letters the sticker said "MY FAMILY VALUES," and then listed seven items: Equality, Free Speech, Accountability, Tolerance, Education, Liberty, and Peace.

Even though the bumper sticker called the items listed above "family" values, I would consider them to be largely political and social values rather than personal family values. And I disagree with most of them. True equality can never be achieved because people are not equal in their abilities, intellect, work ethic, determination, goals, etc. Our society should strive not for equality in wealth and outcomes, but rather for justice -- ensuring everyone is treated equally under the law -- and for equal opportunity for all people to succeed. Free speech is certainly important, but I would describe it as merely one critical aspect of liberty, the one item on the list with which I am in wholehearted agreement. I'm not even sure what is meant by accountability, but I don't think it's important enough to make it on a top 7 list of values. I value tolerance in the old sense of the word -- showing kindness and respect for people with differing beliefs and opinions. Today tolerance means recognizing all beliefs and opinions as equally valid and silencing any speech that could be perceived by anyone else as offensive. In this sense, tolerance is a threat to values I consider important like liberty and respect for truth. Education is not always a positive thing. It can be positive or negative, depending on whether the ideas being taught are true or false, beneficial or harmful. And while peace is an ideal to strive for, war and conflict are sometimes necessary to defeat evil and promote justice. Neville Chamberlain's "peace in our time" approach to the Nazi threat was foolish, and if the civil rights movement's primary goal was absence of conflict it would never have challenged the racist status quo.

Still, that bumper sticker got me thinking about what values I consider important. If I were to make a comparable list of the political and social values that I consider to be most critical to a healthy and prosperous democracy, here are the ones I would include (in no particular order):

--Personal Responsibility
--Equal Opportunity
--Biblical Morality
--Respect for Truth

If these principles do not largely prevail in the beliefs and behavior of our citizens and elected officials, I fear for the future of our country.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

So This Is What Hope-and-Change Looks Like

Item 1: The Justice Department's involvement in a botched operation called "Fast and Furious" which put 2,000 U.S. guns into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. Those cartels then used the guns to kill more than 300 people, including two U.S. agents. The Assistant Attorney General then apparently lied about it in May, when he denied that the government had lost track of any guns. Apparently, Obama's Justice Department is not only woefully incompetent, but also corrupt. Of course, no one has lost his job over this yet, and don't hold your breath either.

Item 2: The Department of Health and Human Services's awarding of a $433 million no-bid contract to a company run by a top Obama donor. Both the bidding process and the product provided under the bid appear to be highly suspect, as this NY Post article outlines, and now even Democratic senators are calling for an investigation. Hmmm...sounds a little like Solyndra. And come to think of it, no one in the Obama administration lost his job over that scandalous waste of taxpayer dollars either.

It's not just that the Obama administration is left-wing. It's that it is incompetent and corrupt. I can understand why liberals would defend an administration that is merely far to the left, but I would think they would be bothered by the incompetence and corruption.

Finally, one of my favorite conservative columnists, Mark Steyn, humorously demonstrates the folly of Obama's big-government mindset in this National Review Online article.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Odds 'n Ends

Here are a few interesting links and comments for today:

First, I had the privilege of attending a prayer rally outside of Leroy Carhart's late-term abortion clinic in Germantown, Maryland on Monday morning. The rally memorialized the first anniversary of Carhart's presence in Germantown and planted 720 crosses in the ground to symbolize the approximately 720 human lives killed during that first year. I was greatly encouraged to see how many people came out to participate on a weekday morning, but I couldn't believe it when I checked online afterwards and found out that more than 2,000 people attended! That is more than double the attendance for the other large protests I have attended over the past year and far more than organizers expected.

Second, I found an interesting exchange relating to the treatment of enemy combatants between Andrew McCarthy of National Review and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky which I thought was well worth reading. McCarthy's original article was in response to a discussion on the Senate floor between Sen. Paul and Sen. McCain on this topic (McCarthy links to a video of this discussion in his article). While I don't necessarily agree with everything McCarthy writes, especially related to the topic of Lincoln's conduct during the War Between the States, I think it is one of the best articles I have read refuting Ron and Rand Paul's positions on the War on Terror. McCarthy also has some harsh words regarding the U.S.'s attempts (under Pres. Bush) to set up democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan. I think I have largely come around to McCarthy's perspective on this as well, in hindsight. Rand Paul wrote a short response to McCarthy's article here, which McCarthy then responded to again here and here. Of course, I think McCarthy by far got the better of this argument, but I'm far from an objective observer and Paul's single response may have been too brief to present his argument well.

Finally, Charles Krauthammer summarizes Obama's case for re-election in this article with two words: class resentment. After all, what else does he really have to run on? He has no ideas to solve the big problems facing our country -- the ballooning national debt, out-of-control government spending, runaway entitlement programs, and an outdated and unfair tax code. In fact, his policies have only made these problems worse. He has not been active in working with Congress and seeking a bi-partisan solution to these problems, and barely lifted a finger to help the debt commission (that he himself authorized) succeed. As Gov. Chris Christie succinctly put it, "What the hell are we paying you for, Mr. President?" He says he needs to be re-elected because there are so many pressing problems facing our country that he hasn't finished solving, but he's spent the past year doing little more than giving campaign-style speeches, attending fundraising, and golfing. Next year will certainly be more of the same. He can't run on his record, so he has to blame others for all our country's problems -- especially the rich. His big campaign strategy is to pound the Republican nominee relentlessly and propose big new taxes for the rich to make sure they pay "their fair share." And I'm sure, with the help of the media, that strategy will lock up tens of millions of votes for him. Maybe enough to get re-elected.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


The local food movement has long been one of my pet peeves. This is a great article from Freakonomics that discusses some of the economic principles (division of labor, specialization, economies of scale...) that the push towards small, local farms seeks to ignore. It also applies these issues to climate change.

"From roughly 1940 to 1990, the world’s farmers doubled their output to accommodate a doubling of the world population. And they did it on a shrinking base of cropland. Agricultural productivity can continue to grow, but not by turning back the clock. Local foods may have a place in the market. But they should stand on their own, and local food consumers should understand that they aren’t necessarily buying something that helps the planet, and it may hurt the poor."